The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart takes a detailed and profound look at the legacy of the Bee Gees. In my opinion this is one of the finest music documentaries yet made. It charts the brothers’ meteoric rise to stardom and the many highs and lows that followed.
Hearing the hits again, the band stood out for their song writing skills and their ability to harmonise. That’s not to overlook their ability to reinvent themselves in spite of a series of setbacks. They conquered the UK and the US, rising to the top of the charts in their own right 20 times and penned material for several of the world’s foremost artists, among more than a thousand songs they wrote. Their story unfolds through historic footage and interviews.
The interviewees include Barry (the only surviving Bee Gee), former members of the backing band, record and production crew. Some of the biggest names in the music business such as Eric Clapton, Noel Gallagher and Chris Martin appear.
Of course, we hear and see the impact the Bee Gees’ hits had on fans. I learnt a great deal and am in awe of their musicality. The group’s aptitude to go into a studio and churn out hits on the fly is extraordinary. The documentary indicates that they saw what they liked and wanted in the success of The Beatles, but they also admired a family quartet. Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb were great together when performing, but the competitive juices also saw them go their separate ways, only to come together again.
Of course, their style of music evolved as society’s musical taste shifted. Their adaptability was crucial to their longevity because there were undoubtedly less triumphant times. Their biggest success came when they wrote and performed the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. But there’s quite a story to that too and how that came about … and that was before the backlash to disco.
The Gibbs’ younger brother Andy’s career – along with his crash and burn – is also part of what is on show.
The documentary has been brilliantly researched and put together by Mark Monroe (Pavarotti), along with story consultant, Cassidy Hartmann. Director Frank Marshall has crafted a compelling portrait of a remarkable family legacy, which is laced with sadness – the result of the premature deaths of three of the four Gibb brothers. Mind you, The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart does not dwell on that. I couldn’t commend this doco any more highly.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.